Publications

  • Research Area: Affordable & Subsidized Housing ×
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  • Responding to Changing Households: Regulatory Challenges for Micro-Units and Accessory Dwelling Units

    In many areas of the country, the existing stock of rental housing falls significantly short of the need, both in terms of affordability and the sizes and configurations of available housing matching the needs of prospective tenants. In response to these and other concerns, a number of jurisdictions have revised their regulations to permit the development of more compact rental housing units, including both accessory dwelling units (ADUs) and micro-units.This paper provides a detailed analysis of the regulatory and other challenges to developing both ADUs and micro-units, focusing on five cities: New York; Washington, D.C.; Austin; Denver; and Seattle. This research was conducted as part of the What Works Collaborative. For more, see the accompanying research brief, Compact Units: Demand and Challenges; download a zip file with city-level data; or view the press release

  • Will They Stay or Will They Go: Predicting Subsidized Housing Opt-outs

    Over the past 30 years, the share of renters in the United States spending over 30% of their income on rent, and thereby qualifying as rent burdened, has increased. This trend has particularly affected low-income families. At the same time, owners of thousands of privately owned, publicly subsidized rental housing units have left, or “opted out,” of subsidy programs across the country. The efforts of local governments to preserve these properties as affordable housing are handicapped by a lack of understanding of the underlying factors that drive owners’ decisions to opt out. This paper employs a unique dataset on subsidized properties in New York City and uses hazard models to explore why property owners in the Mitchell-Lama program, a New York State affordable housing program, choose to opt out. Our results suggest that properties located in neighborhoods with high property value growth, those with for-profit owners, and those past the affordability restrictions on all subsidies, are more likely to opt out. While our study focuses on Mitchell-Lama properties, the findings have broader implications for properties around the country that receive supply-side rental subsidies.

  • Profile of Rent-Stabilized Units and Tenants in New York City

    In 2011, rent stabilized units comprised nearly one million units of housing in New York City--roughly 45 percent the city's rental housing stock. This report details the socioeconomic and demographic characteristics of the tenants who live in NYC's stabilized housing. It is an update to a 2012 brief, Rent Stabilization in New York City. It has been slightly expanded and re-released to inform the ongoing discussions about rent stabilization in New York City in advance of the June 23, 2014 Rent Guidelines Board vote to set the allowable increase for 2015 lease renewals.

  • Unlocking the Right to Build: Designing a More Flexible System for Transferring Development Rights

    This report details the untapped potential for NYC’s transferable air rights program, a critical tool for high-density housing development in New York City. Using case study examples, the report outlines limitations to the city’s current TDR policies and suggests a policy approach that could unlock millions of square feet of unused air rights to help produce more affordable housing. 

  • Do Housing Choice Voucher Holders Live Near Good Schools?

    The Housing Choice Voucher program was created, in part, to help low-income households reach a broader range of neighborhoods and schools. This study explores whether low-income households use the flexibility provided by vouchers to reach neighborhoods with high performing schools. "Do Housing Choice Voucher holders live near good schools?" was published in the Journal of Housing Economics in March 2014.

  • Give Credit Where Credit Is Due: Overhauling the CRA

    The Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) is in need of a major overhaul. Since the CRA was enacted in 1977, and since the last major rewrite of the regulations more than 15 years ago, much about the financial services industry has changed. This chapter discusses why the regulatory system needs to be redesigned to allow for more regular and timely updates, allowing more rapid  responses to what is working and what is not. By being more amenable to continuous improvement, the CRA should be more open to innovation and experimentation given the greater opportunity for making midterm corrections. This chapter starts with a brief overview of the CRA and its successes. It then outlines some ways to facilitate more regular updating of the CRA regulations, followed by a review of a number of ways to increase the effectiveness of CRA in helping to stabilize and revitalize low-and moderate-income (LMI) communities. 

  • Maintenance and Investments in Small Rental Properties: Findings from New York City and Baltimore

    Nearly half of all poor, urban renters in the United States live in rental buildings of fewer than four units, and such buildings make up nearly half our nation’s rental housing stock. Yet small rental properties remain largely overlooked by researchers. We present two reports—from New York City and Baltimore—both providing suggestive evidence, drawn from a variety of sources, about the characteristics of small rental housing. We find that while small buildings offer lower rents and play a crucial role in housing low-income renters, these lower rents are largely explained by neighborhood location. Ownership matters, however. In New York, lower rents are associated with small buildings with resident landlords. Further, we also find better unit conditions in small rental buildings when compared to most larger properties, especially in small buildings with resident landlords. In Baltimore, we find that smaller-scale “mom-and-pop” owners dominate the small rental property market, but that the share of larger-scale owners increases in higher poverty areas of the city. The properties owned by these larger-scale owners receive fewer housing code violations and that these owners appear to invest more frequently in major improvements to their properties.

  • NYC Housing 10 Issues Series #6: Transferable Development Rights

    In a very dense city with a significant need for affordable housing, unused development rights are an important potential source of additional capacity. Wider transfer of development rights would support the development of affordable housing. Many communities, however, fear the increased density that additional transfers would create. Permitting transfers of unused development rights to more distant locations to spur the development of affordable housing. This brief explores the tradeoffs of a revised transferable development rights policy.

    The #NYChousing series, published in 2013 prior to the New York City mayoral election, identified 10 key affordable housing issues that were likely to confront the next mayor of New York City. The series aimed to inform the public about the policy tradeoffs by providing an objective analysis of the pros, cons, and questions related to key housing issues facing New York City. How the incoming New York City mayor would choose address the city's housing challenges in an environment of increasing needs, declining federal support, and a strengthening real estate market would have an enormous effect on the livability, diversity, and character of the city.

  • NYC Housing 10 Issues Series #5: Moderate-Income Household Subsidy

    Housing is a substantial expense for New Yorkers, and has grown even less affordable in the last decade. As housing affordability becomes more of a strain for moderate- and middle-income households, many worry that those households might choose to leave the city altogether, which could undermine the city’s diversity and vitality. Moderate- and middle-income households are often not served by existing rental subsidies, though they may benefit from such a program. This brief examines the feasibility of a moderate-income housing subsidy.

    The #NYChousing series, published in 2013 prior to the New York City mayoral election, identified 10 key affordable housing issues that were likely to confront the next mayor of New York City. The series aimed to inform the public about the policy tradeoffs by providing an objective analysis of the pros, cons, and questions related to key housing issues facing New York City. How the incoming New York City mayor would choose address the city's housing challenges in an environment of increasing needs, declining federal support, and a strengthening real estate market would have an enormous effect on the livability, diversity, and character of the city.

  • NYC Housing 10 Issues Series #4: City Pension Funds

    In the 2013 NYC mayoral election, some candidates suggested tapping the city pension funds as a way to maintain or increase the funding available to create and preserve affordable housing. The pension funds of New York City have some $137 billion in assets and might appear to be a valuable source of capital. However, the law limits the potential uses of these funds and restricts the mayor’s ability to control their use. This brief outlines the tradeoffs of using city pension funds as a potential source of capital to fund affordable housing efforts, as well as the severe limits on their use and the mayor's control of that money. 

    The #NYChousing series, published in 2013 prior to the New York City mayoral election, identified 10 key affordable housing issues that were likely to confront the next mayor of New York City. The series aimed to inform the public about the policy tradeoffs by providing an objective analysis of the pros, cons, and questions related to key housing issues facing New York City. How the incoming New York City mayor would choose address the city's housing challenges in an environment of increasing needs, declining federal support, and a strengthening real estate market would have an enormous effect on the livability, diversity, and character of the city.